Day 6: Yankees | Extra Innings
TAMPA, Fla. – The largest media contingent in the Majors follows the New York Yankees around, which means it doesn't take long for all the storylines to get overcovered. But not this year.
The Yankees have more stars than Andromeda's spiral. More plot twists than a John Grisham novel.
There is A-Rod. And Derek. And A-Rod and Derek. Not to mention Steinbrenner. And Torre. And Steinbrenner and Torre. Plus there is Jason Giambi's diet, Gary Sheffield's steroid test and Bernie Williams' appendix.
And that is just the start.
I know fans hate hearing about it, I know the games are played on the field, but you tour around the Majors and it just seems like it is the Yankees and everyone else. Everything around here is on a different level.
Consider this: More than 3,000 fans showed up at Legends Field to watch their first workout of Spring Training. Every Spring Training game is sold out at the Yankees' beautiful facility here at One George Steinbrenner Drive.
During a six-day trip around Spring Training, you stop at most places and there are a hundred fans, maybe a dozen reporters. Come to Tampa and the fans are lined up to get into the stadium to watch batting practice more than an hour early.
Walk into the administrative offices and three (of 26) polished and perfect World Series championship trophies greet you. Everywhere you look are oversized photos of memorable victories and motivational quotes ranging from Joe DiMaggio and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
"Everything is very serious with what we do here," said manager Joe Torre, who despite four world titles doesn't enjoy 100-percent job security. "We obviously know the pressure to win is enormous."
The Red Sox facility compares in fan enthusiasm and is close in media presence.
But no one else has the history and expectations. No one else has the sensationalism of each new story. No one else is this big.
Baseball fans can hate the team for it, but New York is just New York.
BALLS AND STRIKES
• The thinking man would have guessed that Steinbrenner Drive leading into Legends Field would be a one-way street. It's not, but you need to proceed with caution just the same.
• The Yankees' traveling secretary, George Costanza, was nowhere to be found in Tampa or in the greater metropolitan area. But some impostor named David Szen weaseled his name onto the spring roster card where Costanza's should have been.
• Torre spoke to Bernie Williams, who is recovering from Thursday's emergency appendectomy, and reports the center fielder is doing well. "He said he would do anything to get out of the shuttle run they are going to do this week," Torre said. "So he was a little groggy, but he had a sense of humor."
• Nice to see Don Mattingly roaming the Yankees' clubhouse – he is looking fit and trim and might not be a bad backup should Jason Giambi's "four-pound" weight loss prove to be a factor of fatigue for the first baseman.
• You can't come to Florida and not run into parents, in-laws, grandparents, a crazy uncle or someone in retirement bliss. So Thursday we were pleased to greet in-laws Ron and Sue Wilson, whose own personal Del Boca Vista is amid the cattle farms and orange groves of Arcadia, Fla.
A good meal and a better time was had by all at the Outback Steakhouse in Port Charlotte. Although we did have to inform them that in case they get a phone call from the Yahoo! Sports expense account fraud department about "dinner with two Yankee sources," they should answer to the names Ron and Sue Steinbrenner.
• Speaking of Mr. Steinbrenner, we took an elevator ride with The Boss at Legends Field. He informed us that Friday's cold and windy weather was on the way out and some more Floridian temperatures were en route – which didn't help us Friday. You're supposed to be a powerful man, don't you have the kind of juice to get the sun shining, I asked him. "I have some pull but not like that," the Boss said as he laughed. Steinbrenner, don't believe the hype.
• Located in a seedy Tampa locale, populated by adult video stores and car dealerships, we were fortunate enough to stumble upon Duarte's Latin Food restaurant on Crest Avenue. The Cuban sandwich had us longing for a trip to Fidel's land. Once things settle down, of course.
• Wives and girlfriends of Yankee fans who come down to Spring Training, don't be disturbed about that high charge on your man's credit card from "Mons Venus." It is just an art gallery near Legends Field. Or something like that.
• Of our six stops on the Yahoo! Sports Spring Training Road Trip, Yankees' camp had the most sterile, distant feel of all the locations. The mini-Yankee Stadium feel of Legends offers a nice viewing experience but a decidedly different atmosphere from the fan-friendly Red Sox camp, where the players were accessible and accommodating. But that didn't keep 1,000 fans from showing up in dreary weather.
• How sick is this quote from Jason Giambi that appeared in the New York Post on Friday: "Now all we have to do is get Nomar (Garciaparra) in here to play second, and we can have all the best shortstops on the planet." That's not even funny.
• Thursday night's wrap party was held at the downtown hot spot, The Hub, where Pabst Blue Ribbon came icy cold in a can and the Monopoly pinball machine had true bumpers and loose flippers. Biggest mistake tour driver David Scott made this week (and that is saying something) was trying to mess with us in video bowling. He redefined the term "turkey."
• Next campaign stop: Home • Total mileage: 763.1 • Number of Peter Gammons sightings: 2 (we expected more)